Famous Black Activists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.
14
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Minister
Birthdate: January 15, 1929
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: April 4, 1968

A leader in the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century, Martin Luther King Jr. is best remembered for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. A man of Christian faith who was inspired by Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent activism, he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality.  

 2 Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
17
Famous As: Abolitionist and Political activist
Birthdate: February 29, 1822
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester County, Maryland, United States
Died: March 10, 1913

Born to parents who were bonded slaves, Harriet Tubman life was a difficult one from the very beginning. Yet with her remarkable courage and determination, she not only escaped slavery herself, but also led other enslaved people to freedom. The prominent political activist and abolitionist was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the American Civil War.

 3 Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 22, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Died: December 11, 1964
The King of Soul Sam Cooke is best remembered for his hits A Change is Gonna Come, You Send Me, and Wonderful World. He began singing gospel as a child and later joined The Soul Stirrers. He was shot and killed by a motel manager in Los Angeles. 

 4 Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox
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Famous As: First Transgender Person To Appear on Cover of 'Time' Magazine
Birthdate: May 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States

 5 Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 15, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Longview, Texas, United States
Forest Whitaker is best known for his Academy Award-winning performance as real-life dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Fans also loved him in Rogue One and Ghost Dog. He is an advocate of the UN’s Global Goals and supports peace-building initiatives and programs that help war victims.

 6 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
11
Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 27, 1963

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.

 7 Manute Bol

Manute Bol
4
Famous As: Basketball player
Birthdate: October 16, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gogrial, Sudan
Died: June 19, 2010

Known for his 7’ 7” frame, Manute Bol made headlines as one of the tallest NBA players ever. Born in Sudan, he was initially a soccer player but quit it because of his height. He later moved to the US to represent basketball teams such as the Golden State Warriors.

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 8 Johnnie Cochran

Johnnie Cochran
7
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: October 2, 1937
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
Died: March 29, 2005
Johnnie Cochran was an American civil activist and lawyer. Cochran played an important role in the acquittal of former football player O. J. Simpson in connection with the murder of the latter's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. Cochran had also represented other celebrities like Michael Jackson, Sean Combs, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Riddick Bowe, and Jim Brown to name a few.

 9 Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton
9
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: August 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Summit, Illinois, United States
Died: December 4, 1969

Fred Hampton was considered an activist and a revolutionary socialist working for social change. He was the deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party. He founded the Rainbow Coalition, aiming to help the Chicago street gangs to end infighting. The FBI considered him as a major threat and he was shot and killed in December 1969 during a raid.

 10 Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges
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Famous As: Philanthropist
Birthdate: September 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tylertown
American civil rights activist Ruby Bridges became the first African-American child to attend an all-white educational institute when she joined the Louisiana-based William Frantz Elementary School in November 1960. She was the subject of Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With and the TV movie Ruby Bridges.

 11 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
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Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.

A dynamic talk and lifestyle television host, Karamo Brown is also a reality television personality, actor, author, and an award-winning activist. Beginning his career with a small role in The Princess Diaries, he later switched to television, making his mark with the MTV reality series The Real World: Philadelphia.  Also a published author, he has three titles to his credit.

 12 Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
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Famous As: Greatest Heavyweight Boxer of All Time
Birthdate: January 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Died: June 3, 2016

Widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali was a major figure of the 20th century. He was an inspirational figure for African-Americans during the civil rights movement. Because of his opposition to Vietnam War and his refusal to be drafted into military, Muhammad Ali became an icon for the larger counterculture generation.

 13 Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist, Author
Birthdate: April 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Heiberger, Alabama, United States
Died: January 30, 2006

The American civil rights activist was an ideal foil for her famous husband Martin Luther King Jr. in promoting racial equality. The author and singer led the Women's Movement and fought for the rights of the LGBT community. She was also known for mobilising African-Americans during the 1960 US presidential election. She founded the King Centre, a not-for-profit organization.

 14 Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: March 1, 1983
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mexico City, Mexico

Lupita Nyong'o is one of the most popular black actresses of all time. The first Kenyan-Mexican actress to receive the prestigious Academy Award, Lupita Nyong'o has often been named in lists, such as the world's most beautiful woman. In 2020, she was named by Forbes magazine as one of Africa's 50 Most Powerful Women.

 15 Lena Horne

Lena Horne
4
Famous As: Singer, Dancer, Actress
Birthdate: June 30, 1917
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, United States
Died: May 9, 2010

Lena Horne was an American singer, actress, dancer, and civil rights activist. Horne's 70-year acting career was embellished with several prestigious awards, such as Grammy Awards. Her life and career were depicted in many stage shows, where she was portrayed by actresses like Leslie Uggams, Nikki Crawford, and Ryan Jillian.

 16 Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: August 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA
Died: July 6, 1992

 17 Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 16, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Holly Springs, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 25, 1931
Civil rights and women's rights activist Ida B. Wells is remembered for speaking up against the lynching of Blacks in the U.S. She was born a slave and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. She later co-founded the NAACP. She also co-owned and wrote for Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

 18 Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale
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Famous As: Political Activist
Birthdate: October 22, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Liberty, Texas Liberty, Texas, United States

 19 Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti
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Famous As: Multi-instrumentalist
Birthdate: October 15, 1938
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Abeokuta, Nigeria
Died: August 2, 1997
Political activist and Afrobeat inventor Fela Kuti initially performed with his band Koola Lobitos and later renamed it Nigeria '70. He was inspired by the Black Power movement, which also gradually transformed his musical style. He married 27 women in 1978, to mark the anniversary of the Kalakuta Republic attack.

 20 Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 10, 1807
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minerva, New York
Died: 1863 AD
Abolitionist Solomon Northup had authored the memoir Twelve Years a Slave, which was later adapted into the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave. Northup was abducted and sold as a slave to a planter in Louisiana. He was eventually freed with the help of the governor New York.

 21 Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Carmichael
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Famous As: Political activist
Birthdate: January 29, 1941
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Died: November 15, 1998

Stokely Carmichael was a significant part of the American civil rights movement and the worldwide Pan-African movement. He was associated with the Black Panther Party and the All-African People's Revolutionary Party. The Black Power movement leader later adopted the name Kwame Ture and traveled extensively through Africa.

 22 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
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Famous As: Politician, Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: September 26, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bizana, Eastern Cape
Died: April 2, 2018
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had first met legendary anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela at a bus stop when she was barely 22. They ended up getting married the following year. Winnie’s journey was marred by bans and harassment by the South African government, but the determined social worker revolutionized South African politics.

 23 Martin Luther King III

Martin Luther King III
8
Famous As: Human Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 23, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
The American civil rights activist has continued his legendary father Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for racial equality. Martin Luther King III headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by his father and endorsed Barack Obama’s nomination for American presidency. King fought against police brutality, but he also denounced capital punishment, saying he did not belive in retributional justice.

 24 Omarosa Manigault

Omarosa Manigault
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Famous As: Writers
Birthdate: February 15, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio, United States

 25 Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano
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Famous As: Anti Slavery Activist
Birthdate: 1745 AD
Birthplace: Igboland
Died: March 31, 1797

Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist who was part of the abolitionist group, Sons of Africa, composed of Africans living in Britain in the 18th century. Enslaved as a child and sold to different “masters,” he eventually purchased his freedom and became one of the leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s.  

 26 Betty Shabazz

Betty Shabazz
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Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: May 28, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pinehurst, Georgia, United States
Died: June 23, 1997

Civil rights activist and educator Betty Shabazz, or Betty X, was the wife of Black nationalist leader Malcolm X. Raised by her adoptive parents in Detroit, she met Malcolm X at a Nation of Islam event in Harlem. She died when her apartment was set on fire set by her grandson.

 27 Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross
3
Famous As: Businessperson
Birthdate: November 28, 1980
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kenosha, Wisconsin

 28 Janet Mock

Janet Mock
4
Famous As: Writer & Transgender Activist Know for Her Debut Book, The Memoir Redefining Realness, Became a New York Times Bestseller
Birthdate: March 10, 1983
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

 29 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: November 17, 1992

Author and poet Audre Lorde is remembered as a firebrand feminist and a champion for the LGBT community. Openly lesbian, she penned iconic volumes such as Cables to Rage and The Black Unicorn. She also recorded her 14-year struggle with cancer in The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light.

 30 Kim Wayans

Kim Wayans
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 16, 1961
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

 31 Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 4, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba was a South African singer, actress, songwriter, civil rights activist, and United Nations goodwill ambassador. One of the first African musicians to make an impact on the international stage, Makeba is credited with popularizing Afropop genres. She also advocated against apartheid through music and played a major role in the civil rights movement.

 32 Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis
3
Famous As: Former actor who appeared in films with wife Ruby Dee
Birthdate: December 18, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cogdell, Georgia, United States
Died: February 4, 2005

 33 Candace Owens

Candace Owens
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Famous As: Conservative Author, Political Commentator & Activist
Birthdate: April 29, 1989
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stamford, Connecticut, United States

A political activist of color, Candace Owens first gained visibility as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Having changed her political stance since then, she is now known for her increasingly pro-Trump activism. Her support for Trump and criticism of Black Lives Matter have made her a controversial figure.

 34 Chirlane McCray

Chirlane McCray
3
Famous As: Writer, Social Activist
Birthdate: November 29, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

 35 Anita Hill

Anita Hill
6
Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Morns, Oklahoma, USA

 36 Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke
4
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: September 12, 1973
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, U.S.

 37 Patrisse Cullors

Patrisse Cullors
3
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: June 20, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 38 Katrina Pierson

Katrina Pierson
4
Famous As: Political Activists
Birthdate: July 20, 1976
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kansas, USA

 39 Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker
3
Famous As: Compiler of Almanacs
Birthdate: November 9, 1731
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Baltimore County
Died: October 9, 1806

Benjamin Banneker was born to a free African-American mother and a former slave father, and was largely self-educated. While he showed immense talent in both mathematics and astronomy, having predicted a solar eclipse with precision, he also wrote essays on civil rights and rallied against slavery.

 40 Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry
3
Famous As: Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 12, 1965

Lorraine Hansberry was a writer and playwright best remembered for her play A Raisin in the Sun which emphasizes the plight of African-Americans living under racial segregation. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the youngest playwright and the first African-American dramatist to win the prestigious award.

 41 Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai
3
Famous As: Environmentalist & Women's Rights Activist The First African Woman to Receive 'Nobel Peace Prize'
Birthdate: April 1, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ihithe, Kenya
Died: September 25, 2011

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental, social, and political activist. She achieved popularity after becoming the first African woman to be honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She is credited with founding a non-governmental organization called The Green Belt Movement (GBM), which focuses on women's rights and environmental conservation.

 42 Denise Nicholas

Denise Nicholas
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 43 Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer
3
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist
Birthdate: October 6, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montgomery County, Mississippi, United States
Died: March 14, 1977

 44 Van Jones

Van Jones
10
Famous As: Motivational speaker
Birthdate: September 20, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Jackson, Tennessee Jackson, Tennessee, United States U.S.

Especially known for his honest and poignant commentaries, Van Jones is an award-winning political contributor, commentator, and the host of popular CNN programs like Van Jones Show and The Redemption Project. Also a leader in the fight for criminal justice reform for more than twenty-five years, he has founded number of non-profit organizations and authored several best-selling books.

 45 James Meredith

James Meredith
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 25, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kosciusko, Mississippi, United States

James Meredith created history by becoming the first Black student at the University of Mississippi. A civil rights activist and an author, he had also been part of the U.S. Air Force. He was shot at while on his March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, but survived.

 46 Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan
3
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: February 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Houston
Died: January 17, 1996

 47 Andrew Young Jr.

Andrew Young Jr.
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Andrew Young Jr. is an American activist, politician, and diplomat. Young is best known for his role in the civil rights movement; a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young served as the executive director of a civil rights organization called Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Andrew Young is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 48 Al Sharpton

Al Sharpton
5
Famous As: Civil Rights Activist & The Founder of the National Action Network
Birthdate: October 3, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

 49 Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin
3
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: March 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: August 24, 1987

 50 Carter Woodson

Carter Woodson
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 19, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Canton, Virginia, United States
Died: April 3, 1950

Historian Carter Woodson was is remembered for pioneering Black studies in schools and colleges. He began the Negro History Week, which is now celebrated as the Black History Month. Poverty had pushed him to work in the coal mines initially, and he couldn’t join high school before 20.